LOS ANGELES - Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday's prime-time TV broadcast of the 2020 Emmy Awards will be a tale of reinvention by necessity - and executive producer Reginald Hudlin is loving the possibilities. The director of "House Party" and "Boomerang" and producer of "Django Unchained" and the 88th Academy Awards knows many of the choices he's making for the 72nd edition of TV's biggest prize are going to be firsts. So is Hudlin himself, for that matter: He is the first Black executive producer in Emmys history.
Though the event is based at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, no nominees or live audience will be present, just one of many health and safety restrictions Hudlin and his team are working under. Instead, the production will dispatch camera rigs and crews to more than 130 locations around the world; there, the nominees will have unprecedented freedom to present themselves as they choose to a worldwide audience. Despite all the planning and practice, the gregarious Hudlin knows the deck is stacked with wild cards - and he's excited to play. "Whatever happens," he says, "we want to capture it."
Q: Clearly, this is a moment requiring reinvention, not just technically but creatively. It's also a great opportunity to rethink whether you really need certain things, right?
A: I think every genre needs a reinvention at a certain point, whether it's soap opera or sports or whatever. "Wait a minute. How are we doing this? How do we make this better using technological advances?" Or, "How do we get this to where the audience is now?" I feel like we've been at that point for awards shows for a little while now. To quote the great Melvin Van Peebles, "Trouble is opportunity in work clothes." This is forcing us to question all the tropes of awards shows. Some of those things we'll miss and we look forward to the day we can do again. Some of those things we've been holding onto for no reason.
The truth is, we won't know what works or what we'll miss or what we'll never need to see again until after we do it. We've been watching all these other shows that have happened virtually. We've learned a lot. We've produced shows in this environment. So we're taking the collective learnings of everything we've done so far and applying them to the first large-scale show where the awards are front and center (rather than live performances).
With the Emmys, it comes down to that moment where you go, "You're the winner." It's that very small, but gigantic, human moment. That's what we're fighting to preserve in this show. To do that, but not all be in the same room, means sending out 130 or more cameras. Los Angeles, New York, Connecticut, Canada, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv, wherever we need to go, we're going to be sending out these elaborate but relatively easy-to-use camera rigs so we can have the best sound, the best picture, the best lighting, given the circumstances. We tried to make these rigs as user-friendly as possible so they can install them in their homes. It really is a partnership between us and the nominees.
You can do it in the living room, your backyard, your kid's room. You know how everyone always says good night to their kids? Well, they can have their kids with them! And they can tuck their kids in after they win. Maybe they're alone in their apartment; maybe they've got their entire extended family. Maybe they've got all their friends over there and they're having some raucous Emmy party. It's all up to the individual and how they want to celebrate the night.
Q: The fact that these nominees are all familiar with the process of making film and TV means there might be some creativity involved.
A: That's what we're encouraging. Be safe, first and foremost. But presuming you're being safe ... have at it! That includes wardrobe. If you want to wear a tuxedo and a beautiful gown, great! If you want to put on the funkiest, flashiest, crazy outfit that you would never have the nerve to wear to the Emmys, now's the year! Go! If you want to be totally comfy and you're wearing your Adidas track suit or your Lululemon ... if you want to put on some really awesome pajamas because right after this, you're going to bed ... that's all good, too.
There are no wrong answers. It's all about how you want to express yourself.